China Exhibition Cancelled As Protest To Ai Weiwei Detention
The Britain sculptor Anish Kapoor known for his monumental mirror finished public works has cancelled an upcoming exhibition at the National Museum of China, Beijing. The statement comes as a protest against the Chinese government’s detention of Ai Weiwei, the dissident artist and social critic who has been in custody for the last two months since he was arrested and detained by the Chinese authorities..
Kapoor had been asked by the British Council to compile an exhibition for the National Museum in Tiananmen Square as part of the “UK Now” festival later next year. A spokeswoman for Mr. Kapoor, who was scheduled to travel to Beijing to get the process rolling, announced that the plans had been canceled. British Council chief executive Martin Davidson said he was hopeful that the project would go ahead.”It is through cultural exchange that we best demonstrate the benefits of free artistic expression and build supportive links between people in the UK and China”.
Mr. Kapoor has been a frequent critic against Mr. Ai’s detention and dedicated a recent public work in Paris to him. Ai, a constant thorn in the side of Chinese authorities, was detained in Beijing on April 3 as he tried to board a flight to Hong Kong and remains under house arrest. He is under investigation for “economic crimes” and relatives of the artist say they do not know where he is although his family have been allowed a short meeting to verify his well being.
The Lisson Gallery in London who represent both Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor stated that “it would send mixed messages to China” if Kapoor agreed to a cultural exchange at this time. Kapoor has been an outspoken critic of Mr Ai’s arrest. On 10 May, when he opened his Leviathan installation at the Grand Palais in Paris, he dedicated it to the Chinese artist, describing his detention as “barbaric”. Once Kapoor had spoken out, it was realised that his participation in the “UK Now” festival would be difficult. A British Council spokeswoman stressed that the exhibition proposal had been at “a very early stage, and until he had seen the space we could not have proceeded”.
It has also been reported that ,Chinese artist and curator Wang Jun was released from police custody last week, after being detained for referencing Ai Weiwei in an arts festival he helped organize. Upon his released Wang was given instructions by Chinese police to “keep your name off the Internet, move to another part of town, and do not talk to anyone but yourself.” Hours later, Wang divulged the details of his arrest to a foreign journalist, noting that he no longer had any means to support himself. The festival which included a vacant white wall with Ai’s name, was shut down less than twenty-four hours after opening. “I know nothing good can come of this,” said Wang about defying the police’s instructions. International supporters of the pro-democracy movement in China have other thoughts.
Photo © ArtLyst 2010